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This page is currently under construction. If you have information about prison programs that work please submit it to:imc-portland-requests@lists.indymedia.org
Please put "PRISONS" in the subject line.
  • PROJECT RETURN - a program in Louisiana that sounds like it gives inmates the chance they need to be successful upon release. The director of Project Return, Dr. Robert Roberts, concluded that a major contributing factor to the soaring rate of crime and recidivism in Louisiana was the inability of former convicted offenders to get their lives restarted. He listed several reasons, including the fact that, most were undereducated, many had untreated addictions, gainful employment was hard to find, and many could not reestablish a functional family environment.

    Dr. Roberts designed a program that included;

    • substance abuse treatment and family counseling
    • GED education and academic enhancement
    • training in conflict resolution and communication/relationship skills
    • job training and placement assistance.

    726 offenders have graduated from Project Return. Their accomplishments are amazing;

    • 484 have full time jobs, and 84 have part time jobs. This exceeds the US Dept. of Labor projections for this population by 227%
    • Only 37 have been reincarcerated. That is a recidivism rate of 5.2%! Offenders released from the general prison population in Louisiana have a rate of 75%
    • A conservative estimate of the savings to tax-payers in costs for pursuit, arrest, arraingment, detainment, trial and incarceration are - $24 - 50 million.

    Go To Project Return.

  • THE SOUTH FORTY CORPORATION- a New York based non-profit corporation providing services to inmates in several of NY's state prison facilities. They provide a variety of pre-release seminars, workshops and vocational training experiences to get the inmate ready to work when he/she is released. South Forty continues to provide counseling, training, and other services as needed to help the released inmate find and keep a job. These services can include subsidized OJT as a plus for the employer. Aftercare also includes support for any ex-offender who was in treatment while incarcerated. To date, South Forty has helped 800 released inmates find full time employment.
    Go to:South Forty
  • FAMILY UNITY PROGRAM MODELS address the inhumanity of handcuffing incarcerated women to their beds while they give birth, and the subsequent separation of mother and child within 48 hours. The program is run n community based houses for no more that 25 women and their children. The women give birth at these houses, and continue to live there with their newborn, and other children (usually under the age of 7). Their schedules are filled with classes on parenting, substance abuse, life skills, job training, and getting a GED. Support groups for survivors of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse are also available. These services remain available to the families after the mothers complete the sentencing program, so there is continuity of service providers. When you add together the cost of incarcerating the mother, and providing foster care for her children, programs like these save money in both the short and long term. Women released from prison systems around the country have a recidivism rate of approximately 50%, but only 17% of the women who are released from Family Unity Program houses return to prison.
  • DELANCEY STREET - SAN FRANCISCO- At the Delancey Street complex in downtown San Francisco, former prisoners are active participants in their own rehabilitation program. They live and work together in an environment that encourages them to look themselves in the eye, and accept responsibility for their past and future. New residents are assigned daily chores. They have to dress for success, work, and look out for each other and their community. There is no staff, and the program is funded by income from commercial enterprises managed and staffed by the residents, many of whom are ex-cons. In 27 years, 12,000 ex-convicts have graduated from Delancey Street with a GED and job skills in at least three trades. Long term studies have also shown that around 90% of them are still out in the community. No new crimes, and no more prison time.

    For More Information you can write to the Delancy Street Foundation at:

    600 Embarcaderro Street
    San Francisco, CA 94107

  • IN OREGON - BETTER PEOPLE Located in Portland, Better People's mission is "to dramatically reduce recidivism (offenders returning to crime) in Multnomah County and other areas." It is a fresh employment and counseling program solely dedicated to helping former offenders find, keep and excel in good paying jobs with fair, decent employers. We only accept job orders from companies that pay a minimum of $8 per hour plus health benefits. What this means to you is that if you meet us half way by participating in our program, we won't try to place you in a job that doesn't pay you enough to live on. Our counseling approach, a well researched and documented cognitive-behavioal therapy called MRT, has helped thousands of former offenders across the country. It may do the same for you...
    Go to: Better People

No program is ever going to have a 100% success rate, but these programs and others like them across the country are proving that the traditional prison setting is not the best way to cut crime, cut costs, and keep society safe. We cannot afford to lock up every offender for the rest of his/her life, nor do we have a right to. It is in our best interests then, to expand and develop more programs like these.


For a program to work, it has to address the factors that played a part in sending an inmate to prison. In addition, the program must devise strategies to help prisoners transition back into society. The next few paragraphs outline an expanded work release program that would provide treatment, counseling, training, education and experiences that would help a prisoner do just that.

Parole officers will be assigned to Work Release Units, and will begin working with their assigned inmates the day they move to the unit. Together they will form a team that will assess the inmate's needs in these areas: Education, Job Skills/Readiness, Conflict Resolution/Anger Management Issues, need for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, Conditions Imposed by the Courts, Budgetary Demands, Life Skills, and Personal Goals for the Future.

The inmate and his PO will use this need's assessment to develop an individualized plan for the inmate to follow. The plan will be updated periodically to reflect progress.

As soon as an inmate has adequate skills, he/she will start looking for a job. Work release Units are usually more pleasant places to do a prison sentence, so inmates are highly motivated to find a job. They usually have great work attendance records too, because it is better to go to work than sit around the unit all day. Prospective employers are aware of this fact, and are inclined to hire work release inmates.

The next step will be to write a budget. The inmate and his/her PO will list fines, restitution, court costs, and traffic tickets he/she has been ordered to pay. If the inmate has lost his/her driver's license, the reinstatement fees will be added in as well. I know several people whose parole or probation has been violated because they were caught driving with a suspended license. I think it would be better to negate the possibility of that kind of technical violations by getting the license reinstated before release.

The inmate will also pay room and board, send support to his family if appropriate, and start saving some money toward release.

Each inmate's actual release date will be determined by two things; the sentence imposed by the court, and by the progress he/she is making on his/her rehabilitation plan. When an inmate is nearing the release date, he/she will work with the PO to develop a release plan.

A key part of that plan will be determining where the inmate will live. If he/she has a stable home to return to, the plan will be based on that home. If not, the inmate will find a place to live, pay deposits, have the utilities turned on, and pay rent. Closer to the release date, he/she will stock the cupboards, put some clothes in the closet, and start moving in whatever possessions he/she may have.

In order to accomplish all of this, the inmate will probably have been working at his/her job for several months. He/she will have started making some friends at work. Since people who work generally commit less crimes that those who don't, these new friends may help the inmate develop a new lifestyle upon release.

This type of program will balance the need to keep society safe against the wisdom of giving offenders skills to stay out of prison once they get out. Of course, some ex-convicts will return to their old habits, because they have no desire to change. Wouldn't it be nice if that number was 15% instead of 30, 40 or 50%. Our tax dollars could begin supporting schools again, repair the potholes, feed the hungry, and set up programs for prevention before we start another generation of criminals who don't have the skills to live life in any other manner.

For more information go to ...after seventeen years..., a website set up to follow the programs and prison conditions nationally to help inmates and their loved ones better understand how to deal with the convoluted workings of the prison system before, during, and after incarceration.